Caring for acneic skin is complicated. Striking a balance between pampering skin with gentle ingredients and treating it with potent ones is no easy feat.
For starters, when shopping for skin-care lineup approved for acne-prone complexions, keep an eye out for these key ingredients:
Salicylic acid: Louisville, KY, dermatologist Tami Buss Cassis, MD says salicylic is a comedolytic agent that helps dry up and turn over the skin. “I love to wash my 49 year old face twice a week [with salicylic acid] to help exfoliate and dry up any little pimples that just might be trying to come my way,” she says, noting that the acid is “mild, so even sensitive skin can use sparingly.”
Benzoyl peroxide: Perhaps the most widely known acne-clearing ingredient, benzoyl peroxide works simply by killing acne-causing bacteria. Found in formulas from washes to spot treatments, this mainstay anti-inflammatory is easy to fold into your routine.
Azelaic acid: Beloved for its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, azelaic acid is another MVP when it comes to treating acne. Not only does the acid treat the blemishes, but it also works to fade the appearance of hyperpigmentation that may occur as a result.
Glycolic Acid: The multitasking star of the skin-clearing show, glycolic acid is able to penetrate the skin easier because of its small molecular makeup. On the acid’s list of skin-boosting abilities: clearing blemishes, purifying pores, boosting collagen and adding radiance.
Along with these key players, skin should be balanced with gentle ingredients such as ceramides and hyaluronic acid to keep the skin barrier intact and nourished, versus inflamed or stripped.
Ahead, expert-approved products to help bring healing back to your skin.
A Pore-Clearing Cleanser
A cleanser that’s potent enough to cleanse and de-grease skin without stripping it is hard to come by. The experts at CeraVe nailed the impossible with their Acne Control Cleanser ($16), an efficacious, wallet-friendly formula that’s packed with blemish-busting salicylic acid, oil-absorbing clays and nourishing ceramides.
A Noncomedogenic SPF
Noncomedogenic products, meaning they won’t clog pores, are always a good idea for those with acne-prone skin, but especially when shopping for a sunscreen. Experts can’t get enough of EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 ($39), an oil-free sunscreen created specifically for the skin type.
A Lightweight Day Cream
To de-grease skin as much as possible during the day, opt for a bouncy, oil-free formula like Tatcha The Water Cream ($69), which also happens to be non comedogenic and claims to help refine the look of pores.
A Gentle Night Cream
CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion ($19) is oil- and fragrance-free, non comedogenic and features hyaluronic acid, ceramides and niacinamide to soothe skin as it treats.
A Spot Treatment
For a classic take on a spot treatment, Indie Lee Blemish Solution ($21) combines colloidal sulfur and salicylic acid to draw out impurities. For a hidden option, the totally invisible, stick-on Hero Cosmetics The Mighty Patch ($13 for 36 patches) is made of pure, medical-grade hydrocolloid to shrink pimples over time.
A Solid Exfoliant
Abrasive physical exfoliators aren’t always a smart idea for those with acneic skin, as the scrubbing can tend to exacerbate existing breakouts. Instead, pre-treated pads like Dr. Zenovia Acne Control Peel Pads ($42) or chemical exfoliators such as the best-selling Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting BHA Liquid Exfoliant ($32), rely on similar ingredients such as glycolic and salicylic acids, respectively, to keep pores clear and skin happy.
A Skin-Clearing Retinol
You know retinol for its ability to iron out the look of fine lines and wrinkles, but did you know it’s also a great addition to an acne regimen? While most dermatologists will prescribe a prescription-grade retinol for acne patients, over the counter options like Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment ($15) still pack a punch when it comes to clearing skin.